Friday, April 21, 2017

Boston 2017: Aim Small, Miss Small/ Aim Big, Hit Big (Sometimes)

Anyone who has studied and/or practiced the art of long range shooting (as I have in a previous life) knows the old saw: Aim Small, Miss Small. While this is great guidance for hitting a man-sized target at 1000 yards, it’s not an approach that suits me as a runner.

For me, running long distances is about finding things out. It’s about exploration. It’s about testing the limits. Mostly, it’s a chance—In our safe, comfortable, insulated life—to stare into the abyss. Running offers the chance to grow. To strive, to seek, and to not yield even in the face of struggle.

With that approach to my chosen hobby, I often gleefully toe the line at races with goals that are improbable. Sure, I always set more reasonable sub goals to keep me pushing when the big dream has been swallowed by a cruel reality (see my Grindstone race report here. But, I’m not interested in having things that are easily attained. I never have been.

I share this idea as an introduction to my race report from the 2017 (121st) Boston Marathon. In November 2015, I ran the Richmond Marathon with the goal of qualifying for Boston. As someone whose preference is 100 milers and not marathons, I thought it would be cool to run a “fast” (for me) marathon. Qualifying for Boston would represent that. So, I ran Richmond and snagged a 3:09 (and change) that put me well under the 3:15 qualifying standard for my age group.

Fast forward a year and a half. Add in the greatest addition to the world I can imagine (Paul Thomas born November 10, 2016—the USMC Birthday, btw), and this is where the idea of Aiming Big to maybe hit Big comes into the picture for Boston.

I knew that I wanted to spend the bulk of my time after Paul was born learning how to be a good dad and a good partner for Ginger in this thing called parenthood. That meant making a commitment to the home life first and running goals second.

I adjusted my running and training to reflect that priority. Instead of doing speedwork, going for a regular run before or after work, and hitting the track once a week, I shouldered a backpack and ran to work and back a few days a week. When PT was big enough, I knocked out my morning miles with him in the stroller on the other days.

The strategy was to get in the miles where I could without sacrificing time at home.

Ginger was an awesome partner and made it possible for me to do my long runs in the mountains on the weekends, so I could still feel good about building my base for Tahoe Rim Trail 100 this summer. I managed to get in a little tempo (with the pack or the stroller) here and there, but mostly I knew I’d be running Boston on some quality volume and HEART. I had, after all, run over 700 miles for the year and paced 43 miles at Umstead a few weeks ago (Thanks for letting me run with you Chris and Star).

In the face of the facts, which I did consider based on the sage advice of Wendell Berry and Zach Miller ( I decided to follow my pattern of setting a big goal that would give me a chance to explore. The facts told me that I probably wasn’t in the kind of shape you need to be in for big marathon goals. My friend Pawel also made I was aware of this fact. He is right; running 6:50s for 26 miles DOES require a certain amount of turnover. But…

Facts should not limit us. They should inform us.

I considered all the facts as Wendell Berry has suggested, and then I joyfully set about Aiming Big in the hopes of hitting big. One never knows when the stars will align and hard work and heart will give you a gift. Considering the facts helped me formulate reasonable sub-goals and approach all the goals with joy.

So, I hopped a plane to Boston aiming for a sub 3 hour marathon.  Yes. I know. Sub 3 is a BIG goal. Yes. I also know that it was an unlikely goal. But this is where the joy of running is for me. I KNEW I could easily run a 3:25 marathon, which is the qualifying standard for me for next year. I knew I could go and just have fun cruising. But I wanted to explore. So I did.

I am, however, not foolish. I was not toeing the line without having fully considered all the facts and building sub-goals that were informed by them. So, I made a reasonable plan:

Run the first 5K at a pace neither too slow to allow a sub 3 finish or so fast it would cause me to blow up before the halfway point. After that, I planned to progressively ramp it up if it was going to be my day.

It wasn’t. I just didn’t have the turnover. That was apparent by the 10K point. Chris, my partner in this edition of Chasing Windmills, was feeling just the same. He had, in fact, just finished his first 100 miler two weeks earlier. We talked a little, pushed ourselves, and set about the work of chasing our sub-goals.

We’d hoped to run together the whole day and finish sub 3. Instead, we stayed together until our paces were no longer simpatico, and I took off at the halfway point and tried to just run splits that were as even as possible. That alone was a big goal considering my training.

At the half, I was at 1:36. I was planning to negative split as I had done at Richmond, but the facts told me that a negative split that would result in a sub 3 finish was a fool’s errand. I settled into a pace that would keep 3:08 (a PR) within reach. Each time I tried to pick up that pace, the heat from the sun made it seem like I was running faster than I was. Mile 16 was 6:57 and it felt like 6:30.

At mile 17, I started feeling low on energy, so I double fisted a couple of gels Jordan Chang style to ensure I wouldn’t bonk. A PR was out the window at this point, but running strong to the finish wasn’t.

 At mile 19, you roll into the “hills” that Boston has to offer. Heartbreak Hill proved to be much ado about nothing and I cruised up it thinking: This would, indeed, suck at a 6:50 pace, but it’s really no big deal in the 7:30s. Heartbreak hill came and went.

Rolling into Brookline at mile 22.5 was a big motivator. Chris’ family and Julia were lined up outside of the house where we were staying (Thanks for having me Frank and Megan). It was a big lift to have them cheering us on. Chris’ dad was there too. I never want to disappoint a fellow Marine, so I made sure to cruise through trying to make it look easy. Whether I did or not is up for debate. I doubt I did.

Photo: Frank Curran

I was able to pick up the pace a bit here. I was still really hoping to at least go sub 3:10 at this point. I wanted to just blister that last 6K or so. I figured: here’s a chance to explore—go hard in the last 5K of a marathon to sneak in under 3:10. Again, each time I tried to pick it up, my body responded with a laugh. So, just kept it steady and soaked in the scene.  

I did push (but not blister) the final 5K trying to get in under 3:15. It wasn’t easy mind you- 7:20s are not easy for me that far into a race under most circumstances, and they were not easy here. I laid down a 6:54 mile 26, but 3:15 wasn’t to be either.

The tale of the clock: 3:16:36

·      I finished 3466 (out of 29,000 or so runners), which is pretty cool since my seed was 7267. I’m proud to say I literally passed thousands of people.

·      My second fastest marathon. Link to the Strava data

The reality: I didn’t hit any of the big goals I was really aiming for—at least not on the clock.

But, my biggest goal was to explore. And that one I hit. I saw what was possible on the training I had put in so far this year. What was possible was NOT a sub 3 marathon.

I did, however, have a lot of fun. I finished Boston and chased another windmill with Chris. I would have loved to have caught that sub 3 windmill, but I have zero regrets.

My main goal this year is to learn to be a good dad and a good partner. I wouldn’t trade the time I’ve had with PT and Ginger for any running goal. Life is about balance, and I’m learning how to strike a good balance between home and hobby.

So, my final thoughts after The Boston Exploration:
  • Aim Big, Hit Big. Don’t be satisfied with things you can easily obtain.
  • Set big goals. Say them out loud, so you’ll be accountable for them. And enjoy them.
  • Do not be afraid of “failure” because failure takes on many forms. The only form of failure I’m afraid of is failing to grow by exploring. 
I owe some folks some big Thank Yous:
  • Ginger, thank you for supporting me as I continue to chase windmills and learn how to do so as a new dad. I love you. 

  • Chris, thank you for always being up for staring into the abyss with me. Looking forward to TRT this summer.

  • Frank and Megan, thank you for the hospitality. I enjoyed meeting you both.

  • Jordy, thank you for helping out at the house while I was gone. 

  • Amy, thanks for being there for Ginger and PT while I was off adventuring. 

  • Jordy, Brett, Sean, Andy, Pawel, the boys from Always Brothers, Kirby, Steven, all the folks at Runabout Sports, and the rest of the BBurg running crew, thanks for the encouragement and support.  
·      For Andy: The wall is socially constructed. I refuse to participate in that construction.
·      For Pawel: You were right. Again.
·      Mom: I ran this one for you. Thanks for giving me strength.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

One Foot in Front of the Other: Time for a New Chapter

Last winter Ginger and I found out that she was pregnant. I was in the middle of training for Umstead 100. This wasn't a surprise. We'd had all the normal talks about starting a family. But, we were lucky. Things happened quickly. I suspected they would. Not out of any kind of bravado or whatever. I just had that feeling. I figured: Start "trying" now and things will happen at a good time (not during summer 100 season ha ha). And I was right. Ginger ended up pacing me at Umstead a few weeks pregnant. We couldn't tell anyone yet, so it was really interesting. Brett and I ran the first 50 of Umstead together. And, I was DYING to tell him. Heck, we ran together for 8ish hours. At some point, you run low on topics. And I had a great one. That had to stay secret. Anyway it was really cool. Ginger had an awesome pregnancy. Life was grand. 9 months flew by. The due date of November 23rd starting coming like a freight train. We had gotten as ready as we could logistically (crib, car seats, clothes, diapers, etc--) thanks to the incredible generosity of our  amazing family and friends  We are so grateful!! Being logistically ready and ready to be responsible for a life that had been purely theoretical (I wasn't actually growing a baby inside me-- Ginger was) for 9 months are different things though.

As the calendar clicked to November, time started feeling like it was moving faster. Then, on November 8, things kicked into hyperdive. The boy was going to show up early. And show up early he did. The birth was the most amazing thing I have ever been a part of. I stand in complete awe of Ginger. I'll never understand how she was able to pull that off. Her birth story is an amazing one. Ask her about it sometime. I'm sure she'd by happy to share it with you.

In the end Paul Thomas Stewart joined us on November 10, 2016 as an unexpected, but most welcome, present for the Marine Corps Birthday. He is, by far, the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.

Photo Credit Laura Swift

So, a New Chapter Begins. 

How is it possible that Ginger has more energy than me at this point? 

I'm a dad now. I've loved being a lot things in my life. Lacrosse player. Kayaker. Kayak Guide. Friend. Brother. Son. Teacher. Student. Runner. Marine. Husband. Now, we add a new title: Father!

I have to say that it is the title I am most excited to have. Now, I just have to figure out how to live up to it. Like anything I do, I want to be the very best (insert whatever it is) I can possibly be. The stakes have never been higher. As a Marine, I was responsible for myself and others. But, now I'm responsible for a life that Ginger and I created who is totally dependent upon us. That is heavy. It is also amazing.

As I tear into this new chapter, I will carry a lot of the lessons the other titles have taught me. Parents taught me compassion, integrity, empathy, hard work, and too many other things to name. Friends taught me loyalty and the importance of not missing a chance to let them know they're valued. Teaching taught me to think about what others need in new ways. Kayaking taught me to love exploring. The Marine Corps sharpened my sense of honor (if you don't already have it, not even the Marines can give it to you). Scout Sniper school taught me patience. Then, Ultrarunning taught me patience at a whole new level. From running, I have learned to take things one step at a time. As long as we can take one more step, we should. Anyone who's ever run a 100 miles (or even a marathon, really) knows that you can not be successful if you think about trying to get through the whole distance at once. You have to break things down into little bits. For me, when times get the hardest, just putting one foot in front of the other and not thinking beyond that is what works. And that is what I intend to do as Ginger and I write this new chapter. Just put one foot in front of the other. Have a plan for the whole journey. Have a plan for success in the long term. But, most importantly, execute that plan by focusing on one foot at a time.

Here's to the next step, my friends. Looking forward to settling into the new role and continuing to strive to succeed in all of my current ones.

See ya in the mountains. And soon Paul will be in tow learning to adventure. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Grindstone 100 2016 Race Report: Yes, Clark. Pain is, indeed, temporary.


I’ve spent the bulk of the past six months training specifically for Grindstone. This race came onto my radar when I the chance to pace Jordy for the final leg in 2014. I fell in love with the race immediately. It’s a tough, rugged mountain race that pushes people to the limit—and that’s what an ultra SHOULD do. It has a great energy and very welcoming atmosphere. Clark puts on a great race, and the volunteers are amazing. And the course. Man, the course is full of fun. Check out the elevation profile: 

I have been in no rush to do the race. I wanted to wait until I was sure I was ready to go have a good day and really test myself on the course. In 2015, I helped Jordy run the Reddish Knob aid station. Over the last couple of years, I've spent a lot of time doing long runs on the AT and improving my climbing skills. This year was the right time to step up from flatter 100 milers to a mountain 100.

Sean, Chris and I drove up to Swoope Friday morning, and I got checked in and ready to go. After the race meeting, I tried to get some rest before the start. A little before 6, we headed over to the start where I caught up with Ryan and Ben.

Ryan Nebel & Ben Wyrick

It was a little chilly and drizzling rain—basically what has become “Grindstone Weather”—as we stepped off on the Odyssey that is running a 100 miler.

Running with Ryan and Bryan Photo: Sean Raines

 The first few sections went about like I thought they would. I came through Falls Hallow, Dry Branch, and Dowell’s Draft close enough to my expected times that I felt like a good day was a real possibility. I left North River Gap (Mile 37) feeling strong. I popped in an earbud (just one because I always like to listen to the woods around me) and jammed out to music as I pushed my way up the big climb towards the Little Bald Knob aid station. Rage Against the Machine, Fife and the rest of the Tribe, Mandolin Orange, and John Prine (sorry Brett—no Beibs) kept me company and allowed my mind to drift as I tried to stay at my comfortable “all day” pace.

Things progressed about as expected (if only a little slow) until I started coming close to the Reddish Knob punch. The rain and fog were relentless. The course was a mix of standing water, mud, and slick rocks. Even though I had already changed socks twice (thanks Sean!), my feet were starting to have some trouble. I normally don’t have blister issues, so I wanted to be careful and keep it that way. I felt some hot spots on both of the balls of my feet. To stay on top of it, I sat on the muddy trailside and pulled my emergency socks out of my pack and changed them.

Muddy shoes were great for warding off sketchy people at the Econo Lodge after the race

During the race, the shoes were so caked in mud that I didn’t realize that they had holes in them.

Shredded Altra Olympus 2.0 

 Anyway, a quick sock change and I was off to the punch. Then, I rolled to Briery Branch Gap (Mile 51.56) to pick up Chris in 12:17-- about an hour before sunrise. Honestly, I felt great. I was running smart, taking care of my feet, eating, and saving energy. I was moving through aid stations quickly, which was a big focus.  I felt a little tired, but not bad at all. My legs felt strong and I thought, for sure, sub 24 was possible. The sun would be coming up soon and I knew I could make up some time once I was no longer running by headlamp in the fog and rain.

Chris and I started the hike back up from BBG. I wanted to let food settle while we climbed so we could run the ridge back to Little Bald Knob. We moved fairly well for a while, but then I started having some problems that were a bit more serious than just some sore feet. I had been drinking water like it was much warmer out than it was. I was cold, and I started having to go to the bathroom way too often. Clear and copious urine was not the welcome sign it normally is when you’re hydrated at a healthy level. Chris and I progressed to North River Gap (65.33) making OK time (16:13). Four hours was a good bit slower than I wanted for that section, but I knew that I just needed to wake up as the day went on, figure out the hydration thing, and I could pick up the pace again. Then, I started throwing up whenever I ate.

By the time we got to Lookout Mtn (71.68), I was feeling like I was in real trouble. It had been hours since I held any food down and I was feeling weak and shaky. Chris kept reminding me to get some salt on board. He was SO patient with me as I stopped what felt like every 5 minutes to puke or go to the bathroom. About a mile after leaving Lookout Mtn, I got worried. I thought I might need to go back to the AS and try to sort things out. I thought I might need to drop. But, Chris was with me and I knew all I need to do was keep moving to keep warm.

I needed to work the problem and find the solution. In the end that solution was slowing down, taking on salt, laying off the water for a while, and letting go of my time goals and ego.

That was hard.

I had trained so hard for this race. I wanted to have a good day in terms of placement and the clock. But, what I got was something way better: A chance to stare in the abyss, confront failure, and persevere. So, here is how that went down.

Chris helped me remember that I only needed to get to the next aid station. Everything could be re-assessed at Dowell’s Draft (Mile 80.35). At that point, I would only have 21 miles or so to go. And, I would have like 17 hours to do that distance. I decided I would just get to Dowell’s get out of the wet clothes, into a sleeping bag, warm up, and eat. Then, if I needed to nap, I would nap. But I wasn’t going to quit. There was no reason. I had Chris to ensure I was safe, an amazing crew (thanks again Sean, Pawel, and Rick) who would get me dried out, fed, and ready to go.  I knew that Pawel would do a great job of pacing me to the finish.

So, that’s what we did. At Dowell’s, Rick had laid out a tarp. 

Warm clothes and food make all the difference. 
Sean, Pawel, and Rick got me out of the wet clothes and into warm dry clothes. They fed me, pushed the warm coffee, and got me ready to get moving again. No nap needed. No one complained about being out in the rain for the last 20-plus hours. No one complained about how damn slow I was going. No one acted like I was doing anything but well. And, that made all of the difference. I can’t express my gratitude enough.

Once I was dried out and fed, Pawel and I took off towards Dry Branch Gap. 

Getting Pawel the vert I promised him

Up the climb we went. Jordy was right—the business on this course starts at the climb after Dowell's. Pawel told story after story and kept my mind off the weather (that damn rain!!!), the blisters, the shredded qauds, the chaffing (my kingdom for a zip log bag ha ha) and most importantly: The Clock. At Dry Branch, I got a great surprise when I saw that Ginger was there and Brett had driven up to see me too.

Ginger joins the crew in the rain (preggo & everything-- awesome!) 

I felt so lucky to have such great people supporting me that I no longer cared about the clock. I was just happy to be out in the mountains moving steadily and with a purpose towards the finish. And eventually we got there. 29 Hours and 56 minutes later. Almost a full work day longer than I had thought it would take. You would think I might be disappointed. I am not.

You're not a finisher until you hug the totem pole. 

This finish is my proudest moment in terms of running to date. And here is why:

1.     I have never had to look failure so squarely in the face before. I like running ultras because they allow us to test ourselves. We can learn so many lessons from doing things that might result in failure. I will cherish the lessons from Grindstone. The most important one was to really embrace the process and think less about the finish. I love being in the mountains with my friends, and when you get fixated on the finish line you miss out on some of the fun of exploring.

2.     Before the race, Jordy had told me that I needed to have the discipline to race from start to finish. He told me not to allow myself to be broken or become satisfied. Although I was unable to “race” from start to finish, I believe I heeded his advice. I was never satisfied. I never just phoned it in. I ran smart early and when things didn’t go my way I pushed as hard as I could just to finish. That doesn’t mean I went fast. But I never let myself just slog or give up. I moved with a purpose—even when I didn’t want to.

3.     I Chose Joy. That idea has been a mantra in our group since Brett or Jordy (I can’t remember who) came across it in a race report a while back. Ginger gave me a card on Friday that she colored that said: Choose Joy.  When I was tired and feeling bummed, that card reminded me that I’m lucky to be able to do these things and I should choose to enjoy it. I was able to do that, and that made all the difference.

4.     Having such an amazing crew of people around me made me feel like I must be doing something right in life. I’m lucky that people will be that generous with their time, and I’m proud to have these friends in my life.

5.     I finished Grindstone, DOOD!!! Seriously, a whole year of working towards something, and I got it done!

This has been a long one, so I’ll close by saying a big THANK YOU to Sean for being an amazing crew chief. I can’t wait to return the favor.

If you ever need a crew chief, Sean is your man. He is on top of it!  (Well, he DID wear jeans to Grindstone, but he's one top of taking care of other people)

Thanks to Chris for being a steady, calming presence. I always enjoy our time together on the trail. I’m also looking forward to returning the favor.

Chris Larson is an amazing pacer. Steady, calm, and always upbeat. 

Thank you, Pawel for being patient and encouraging along the way. You’re a great pacer, training partner, and friend. Can’t wait to help you knock out your first hundy too.

Feed this guy vert and he will go anywhere 

Rick: you were such a huge help! Thanks for coming out and supporting me! 

Ginger: thank you for letting me be me and for supporting me as I train and chase windmills with our crazy friends. 

Bryan Jennings: YOU ARE A BEAST! Congrats on your first 100. This was a doozie!! I'm so glad to have re-connected with you and Peggy. It was great seeing you guys. 

Ryan Nebel: Congrats on another solid finish. You're an inspiration, man. Great dad and still running strong!

Ben: I'm glad we got to spend some time together in the mountains. Looking forward to the next one.

Brett and Jordy: thanks for being the best training partners, mentors, and friends I could ask for.

I wouldn’t have made it to the finish without ALL of you.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Eastern Divide 2016: Chasing the perfect day (and some windmills).

If you want to make an omlette, you gotta crack a few eggs.

On the drive to the starting line Saturday morning, Brett read us Zach Miller’s recent blog post “If I’m Honest” that talked a lot about giving everything you have to a race. Miller lamented the lack of blood and guts and willingness to lay it all out on the line he sees all too often in racing. Combine that with the refrain from a recent article by Laz (that was basically a requiem for the lost art of going out too fast) running through my head and we had all the makings for a special day at Eastern Divide. Oh, and Kirby calling me out in the pre-race email. Yes. That too.

Oh, and Reeve (The OG Bad Idea Club President) was here too. When you put all that together, I knew I had to burn the ship on Saturday. I knew I had to run the race harder than I’ve ever run a race before. I just HAD to see what was possible. I HAD to toe the line with the mindset that I would blow up and walk the final miles if needed. When we lined up at the Cascades trailhead, I knew I was heading off in search of the elusive “perfect” day.

So, here we go: EDU 16.

After a fun morning of hanging out at the trailhead catching up with good friends, Brett, Chris, Erik, and I lined up near the front of the pack. I kissed Ginger goodbye and said thanks for everything and got locked in.

The plan was simple. Run the first climb just shy of the limit and then fly down the forest service road and stay in contact with the head of the race (Not the top 3, we KNEW we had to let Frank, Mike, and Jason go). I knew we just had to stay in contact with the top 10 and see what happens.

The first 5 miles felt great. We ran easy up the climb and hiked a couple of steep pitches to save the legs for the first road climb and the first long decent. We passed Jordy and Sean (Thanks for making the course AND working the RAVE Station, btw) near the top of the climb in a tight pack that represented 9-15 place. Jordy shouted encouragement and Sean made me laugh. I was happy. The legs felt good, and the first climb didn’t hurt me too badly.

We rolled right by AS 1 and powered up the first road climb. Chris, Brett, Erik, Ian, and I started reeling in the faster guys like Joe Dudak and cool dude named Brad as we rolled through AS 2.

On the long, fast forest road section, our pack stayed together. It was weird to be in such a big group dropping sub 8 miles. I have to admit it was stressful. Losing contact would mean losing 10 spots in the race. I tried not to think about it, and just tried to think about running smooth, eating, and drinking. Chris, as always, helped me stay relaxed and focus. We always run faster together.

Somewhere along the way, a strong local runner gave me a some good natured ribbing. He said, “You’re kind of a big guy to be in this group.” I smiled and said, “I’m representing for the fat kids” and laughed it off telling myself he was just appreciating how fast a guy who can actually lift something heavy when needed could move. Inside, I told myself, “I’m gonna make him pay on the next climb” and I smiled.

Fast forward a bunch of low 7 minute miles and we hit the long road climb. To me, this is a one of the best parts of the course. You’re at mile 16 and you have a long, steady road climb. The kind that suits someone who runs in the mountains every day and enjoys a bit of suffering. Chris asked me, “Where’s the walking stick?” A reference to Brett’s strategy from Umstead. I just grunted, “There isn’t one here. We are solidifying a top 10 finish on this climb. We are going to put some space between us and that pack here.” Chris accepted my strategy and pushed the pace. Chris, Brad, and I pushed ahead hard on the climb. We hit AS 4 like a cyclone. I grabbed a fresh water bottle filled with gels and tailwind, chugged some Coke, said hey to Andy, dumped water over my head, and took off chasing Brad (Thanks, Andy). Chris followed quickly behind me, and we settled into the chase. Hoping to keep Brad in sight. The goal was simple. Put time into the others and try to keep Brad in sight until we got into the techy trails again.

That was not to be. Well, the second part. Brad proved too fast for us, and he outpaced us to the woods. When we got to AS 5, Chris and I were still sitting 6 and 7. Joe Dudak was chasing hard, but we didn’t know how far behind he was (which was waaaay too close for comfort, as it turns out). Kirby kicked us out of AS 5 and off we went.

I kept thinking: “I think this might be THE DAY. I think I can sustain this til the finish line.” Chris and I don’t talk much when we run. We just settle into the pain cave and shovel coal into the hopper to fuel the pain train.

We hit the burly climb from the techy trail up to the meadow, and shifted down into powerhike mode until we hit the top. Brad was nowhere in sight, but we couldn’t see Joe behind us either, so it was all good.

We rolled into AS 6 (The RAVE STATION) happy to see Chris Clarke (a local legend) along with Jordy, Josh, Jill, and the other awesome volunteers. Sean (Mao Mao) was MIA. All I wanted was to fill my handbottle and get rolling. I was worried that the clock was ticking on how long I could sustain this effort. I knew we had to move. Jill was right on time with the pitcher to fill my bottle. I grabbed a handful of something and an orange slice and took off as fast as I could yelling “Thank YOU!” over my shoulder. I’m sorry I didn’t stay longer to laugh and say thank you properly to everyone. It was a great AS (like all the Aid Stations as EDU). The volunteers are amazing and deserve a lot of thanks. Thank you again to every volunteer that so generously gave their time Saturday, so we could be knights and chase our windmills.

Chris and I ran hard through the next section of techy trail. To be honest, I had given up on chasing Brad. I knew if we hadn’t caught him yet we weren’t going to reel him in. But, I did know that anything is possible and someone else could blow up. Plus, the goal was a 4:30 finish and top 10. We had to keep our eyes on that prize. We did.

We hit the last forest service road connector section and opened it up until we went back into the woods at the 1.5 miles to go road sign. 4:30 was slipping away. But, we kept pushing. Chris and I stumbled and staggered through the boulder garden. We looked at the lake over our right shoulder and closed the final miles as hard as we could push.

As we hit the final climb to finishing road section, my legs were cramping. Quads screaming, I heard a noise behind us down the hill. There was Joe Dudak smiling up at us. “Guess, I was too loud. Was trying to sneak up on you,” he called.

“Oh, #$@$ NO!” I said to Chris. His legs replied: Let’s go, T! Chris took off and smashed the final steps into the clearing. A quarter mile to go. We hammered it. Legs cramping, I made my final effort to outrun reality and find that elusive windmill. I pushed as hard as I could and caught up to Chris. We sprinted to the finish line. 6 and 7!! 4:34. We did it! A huge course PR for both of us. Joe came in right behind us. He was smiling and just generally being an awesome nice guy. Great race, man. 

We found the elusive perfect day. We cracked some eggs. We poured blood and guts out all over the trail. I like to think Zach Miller and Laz would be proud of our race. We left nothing out there. We didn’t cheat the gift. We made use of the perfect day we had been given. And, I’m grateful for it.

I sprinted across the line and gave Ginger a sweaty, salty, smelly hug. So happy to see her. 

I gave Chris a huge hug too, and slurred a grateful thank you to him for pushing me all day.

Then, we commenced to hanging out with our amazing friends and their families.

I was proud to see that Reeve had crushed the 8 mile race and came in second. Ginger had a great day and a solid finish in the 8 mile too. She’s amazing! Brett had an 1 hour and 45 minute course PR and came in right after us.

So many people did amazing things at EDU. Locals Frank and Mike came in 1-2. Erik ran a tough race and finished his first Ultra in a long time. Dan Woods did us all proud and had a great showing at his first 50K. (So proud of you, Dan). Josh Starner stuck to his plan, and ran a smart race leaving it all out there. Royce became the only 5 time finisher and had a great day after a post- Umstead injury. Matt crushed his first 50K. Jim Trixler had another great showing as he preps for his first 100 miler in August. Adrienne represented VT Ultra and had a great day. My main man, Nelson came though smiling and inspiring like only he can. Bryan Jennings had a great first 50K (Bryan, it was great to re-connect with you and Peggy). Julia was 2nd female and 7th overall in the 8 mile. And, so many other people accomplished their goals.

We all owe Kirby and the volunteers a big debt. Thanks!!

After the race, we went back to our house and had a great cookout. 

It was so fun to have our friends and their families hanging around, eating, talking, and just being awesome. Ginger and I are so lucky to have such an amazing community. Thank you to everyone for making our day special.

Then, we ran the Sundown 5K. Jordan and Andy laid down sick times. And Chris won the combined (unofficial, but I'm sure he did. He SMOKED the 5K). 

Thanks to the folks at Runabout Sports for putting on a great race. Thanks to Stephen and Heather for letting us borrow strollers, so X and P could race with Reeve and Ginger. 

Look at Ginger pushing that stroller like a champ!!

 And here is Reeve showing us all how it's done! I was chasing him from the start. 

Thanks to Kirby for getting Reeve a late entry to the 5K. And thanks to everyone for a great day. I loved every second of it. I continue to be amazed at how lucky I am to have such an amazing wife, a great family, and the best friends in the world. Thank you all for making life grand and chasing windmills possible. And one last shout out to Jordan and Brett for putting in so many amazing miles with me this year. Without you guys, I couldn’t have put this perfect day to use. 

And Kirby, thanks for the motivation, man. You put on a great race. I

f you haven't run, Eastern Divide, be sure to sign up next year. Kirby's race is amazing!!